Packrafts are light-weight, single person rafts that allow us to explore some of the most remote areas in Alaska. They are fun to paddle, comfortable, and give us an unmatched freedom in the wilderness, opening up rivers previously inaccessible. These responsive and stable little boats are the ideal way to explore rivers and creeks too hard to access or too small to navigate with larger craft.
You need not be an expert paddler to venture into the world of packrafting. Just sign-up for one of our guided packrafting trips and let us show you the ropes. Packrafting trips offer the simplicity and challenge of a backpacking trip without carrying a heavy pack every day.
What to Expect on a Alaska Packrafting Trip
We use Alpacka packrafts on our trips. They are the best packrafts available. At just 6 pounds, these small rafts are remarkably easy to maneuver and a great way to explore the wilderness. Our guides will provide a safety briefing at the start of the trip and additional instruction throughout.
On “travel days”, everyone works as a team to make and break camp and maneuver the boats safely down the river. We plan all of our trips to maximize wildlife viewing and to provide ample time for leisurely picnic lunches, fishing and hiking. Our Alaska packrafting trips frequently include one, two, or three layover days spent exploring, hiking, fishing, bird watching or just enjoying the solitude and silence
Preparing for your Packrafting Adventure
Most of the paddling on our wilderness packrafting trips is at a relaxed pace and no specific physical training is necessary. But being in decent shape physically will increase your overall enjoyment of the adventure. Some of our packrafting trips start high in the headwaters where we may carry heavy packs for the first few days of the trip. Conditioning for a "headwaters" trip is recommended. Talk with us about the challenges and joys of each of our packrafting trips. We can often tailor the trip to your interests and abilities.
If you are interested in becoming a skilled paddler prior to the trip, we can arrange a custom packrafting course for you. Please contact us for details.
Light and nimble packrafts allow us to start high on the Alatna, far upriver of where most travelers ever get to set foot. Join our 10 day Gates of the Arctic pack rafting adventure on the Alatna River, where the paddling is fast and fun, the hiking is superb, and the open tundra provides long vistas and wildlife encounters. With long arctic days and nearly limitless wilderness, this trip explores the very heart of Gates of the Arctic National Park.
Starting high on the Arctic Divide, the Alatna River’s clear water flows through the dramatic peaks of the central Brooks Range. Tundra peaks beckon in all directions and we will have time to explore them. After hiking to where the river is deep enough to paddle, we will lash our gear into the packrafts and paddle down this spunky and fun clear water river. As we head down river we will be rewarded with tantalizing glimpses of the sheer granite spires of the Arrigetch Peaks emerging from the boreal forest. Dall sheep, wolves, moose and caribou are commonly seen in the area and we are likely to encounter them. Arctic grayling swim below the pristine water and, with luck, can be caught along the route.
Your guide will provide instruction on pack rafting and river safety and the Alatna is a good place to develop paddling skills. No previous packrafting experience is required but being comfortable on the water is a bonus.
Packrafting was invented in Alaska and is a great way to enjoy the remote corners of Gates of the Arctic National Park. Packrafts are light, strong, and easy to learn. Ask about discounts for bringing your own packraft.
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Meet your guide for a pre-trip meeting at 4 pm in Fairbanks at Arctic Wild headquarters.
Fly north from Fairbanks across the Yukon River to the town of Bettles (population 15). Here we board a smaller plane and continue on into the Gates of the Arctic National Park. Our skilled pilot lands us at the very headwaters of the Alatna River, right on the Arctic divide….and then the plane leaves and we are alone in the grandeur of the wilderness.
The Alatna River is too shallow to paddle as it leaves the headwater lakes. We spend our first full day of the trip shouldering our packs and walking down river. Packs will be heavy and all will be glad when side creeks join the Alatna and make it navigable.
Paddle and day hike in turn. The upper valley offers outstanding hiking and we will have time each day to explore. We have 5 full days to cover a little more than 50 river miles, which leaves some time for climbing mountains, watching wildlife or simply relaxing by the river.
Await the arrival of our bush plane at Takahula Lake. The busy world awaits. Weather permitting we fly to Bettles and then back to Fairbanks in time for a late dinner. Shower.
Transportation beyond Fairbanks, food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils, packrafts, paddles, life jackets, safety & repair gear and professional guide service.
Lodging, non-camp meals, personal clothing and gear, waterproof river bag, wading pants/ chest waders. fishing gear, and fishing license. Gratuity for guide(s). Rental equipment is available through Arctic Wild. See full equipment list.
A variety of weather should be expected including rainy periods and bright sunny conditions. Temperatures can range from in the 70’s down into the 30’s or lower. Snow is possible but unlikely to remain on the ground. Bug season is over, but there may still be mosquitoes and gnats around. You should carry a head net and one bottle of insect repellent.